Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Is it gray when you mix black and white?

Jérôme is the lead partner at the firm of architects on the floor directly below our office. I don’t know his name but he looks like a Jérôme to me in his chinos and short-sleeved cotton shirts carrying a well-worn canvas and hide Sandstorm bag. I’ve spotted him secretly spying me through the mirrors’ reflections when we’ve shared a lift on several occasions. My gaydar was stirred but it was at the car park yesterday after work when someone said something which confirmed these doubts.

Actually it was Sheila who pointed out Jérôme who was getting into a Jeep driven by a youngish looking man. She nudged me with her elbow don’t look now but there’s that Belgian with his Kenyan boy! Then claws showing as we watched the Jeep climb out of the basement, ‘these white men are spoiling our young men.’ I couldn’t let this one slip by so I said, ‘Who’s to say they are not equally enjoying whatever it is they are doing together.’ Sheila said nothing just shrugged. She’s a clever girl, steers clear of controversy whenever challenged.

It got me thinking on the way home. This is not the first time I’ve heard the view expressed that the black Kenyan half of an interracial couple is being taken advantage of, or that the ‘foreigner’ is being cheated off his money. Somehow Kenyans in these pairings are seen as calculating but naive gold diggers while their usually white lovers are viewed as lovelorn hapless victims. If you add a substantial age gap to the mix you have a recipe for a potential riot. Is there any truth to these stereotypes?


  1. And this unfortunately is also true of interracial straight relationships. It is always assumed that the black Kenyan (esp woman) is a gold digger, and that the white foreigner (mostly men) is a perv. *sigh.

    History? Perceptions?

  2. Hi Majonzi,

    What I find curious is that shamed look one sometimes sees in the eyes of black Kenyans who are in interracial relationships. You could be right that people are carrying the baggage of historical exploitation, it ends up bleeding into these relationships. Sad, sad. Thanks for your comment. x

  3. I'm from mixed parentage and in my parents time, that was the common perception...rather it was much stronger than it is now. There are more and more mixed couples I see and hopefully this will break down these prejudices because it's really sad that mixed race relationships have to have ulterior motives!


  4. Hi sparkles,

    I did this post whilst also acutely aware of people of a mixed heritage
    such as one of my favorite bloggers, this brand of discrimination hurts just as much. x

  5. There you have it...silly ¨observations¨...they are made about LGBT people during the course of our entire lives...it wouldn´t matter except now in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Jamaica, Iran and Iraq and a few places even in The United States and the UK there is a pogrom going on...those innocent ¨critques¨ are getting a little closer to seeming more like the instigating of hate crimes (self-righteously, religiously, stupidly, natch)...I´m reminded how easy it has been, and could be, to ¨pass¨ for whatever I think they want from me...give them the artificial me they have earned and I´m SAFE...No problem, I would become wallpaper if my life or the lives of my loved ones were threatened by thugs (dressed up as clergy or politicos or their accomplices/followers).

    In my case, I´m older...Juan Carlos is younger, we are two different colors...interesting, Juan Carlos has a history of ¨liking¨ older men, especially older men who are of my complexion/hairy...he´s got framed pictures in his room and alblums to prove his liking for ¨my type¨ (which I hadn´t grown into becoming at the time he had those earlier ¨loves¨)...as a older person I note that I don´t think much differently about what kind of person appeals to me or what I look like in my maturity (sometimes I´m shocked to look in the mirror and see me)...my preferences for others have always been about the same, regardless if I was 18 or now...I like goodlooking, masculine men best (I have no color preferences), the age span is somewhere between 30´s and my age now (alas, when I was younger they were more my age then now)

    Juan Carlos is both of those things...plus being very loving to a older man (me, me, me) is what he enjoys (btw, he works his butt off at a regular job, comes home and I have to STOP him from working around here all-night)...the only spoiled brat here is me...however, I have worked very hard my entire life.

    These days, in semi-retirement, I´ve got a part time gardner and a maid too. I love them for the wonderful and industrious people they are. Also, they are really kind to me. Sometimes I bring them presents when I travel or ¨help¨ them out financially (they always pay me back) or pay for the dentist, doctor or glasses.

    I imagine ¨people¨ talk about me too.

    Tiresome people can become unfunny bores fast...but, sometimes I smile anyway (it´s just that they don´t know that it is them that I´m laughing at).

  6. Hi Leonard,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Unfortunately the harsh economic conditions in this country for the majority only seem to cement these 'beliefs'. x

  7. I have dated a white guy and he was much younger than me.... that never raised any questions but I guess if I was the younger one, the story would have been that I am being taken advantage of.

    I have friends in mixed race relationships with age gaps that have faced strange questions from both sides

  8. From a mixed heritage background myself, I can identify with the discrimination often levelled against interracial couples. I'm pretty sure my parents went through the same, though they never let on. However they genuinely fell in love and had to go through a Romeo/Juliet type drama with their respective families.

    These stereotypes however can on occassion be true i.e the monetary aspect. Where white people in Kenya are viewed as being more affluent than black Kenyans (which is not always true).

    I think its this perception plus we have all these expatriate types in Nairobi driving around in their 4-wheel drives and spending dollars like there's no tomorrow in a city where half the population lives on less than one dollar a day. It's inevitable then that sometimes there's a case of willing buyer/willing seller.

  9. Hi GNM,

    Seems like we are always going to be jumping through hoops! Oh sweet life. Have a lovely day. x

    Hi WildeY,

    Thanks for confirming this applies to straight interracial couples as well.
    Unfortunately Nairobi remains a city of two halves. It's no secret that Kenya is a playground for the rich and in the top 5 most unequal countries in the world! There are bound to be a set of outcomes that people don't quite understand. Nice day fella. x

  10. You mean he looks Jerome? What Jerome, OMG can't believe you LOL... He has changed. Anyway stereotype we all love to hate and sometimes it is not even true or it is the other way round!! Most of the hook ups on radio are bois or gals looking for white guys who are financially stable so you will wonder why? But I cringe everytime I see a white guy and gal or a guy, just don't know why. And they are always uncomfortable because guys actually glare??!!

  11. i hate those judgements because they are purely stereotypical and just based on nothing substantial. sure maybe some black women do go out with white men for money, but also there are black women who date black men for money. i think we need to remember we are people. people love people and are attracted to people,whether young or old, white or black.sparkles is right.its unfortunate that people have to attahce ulterior motives to interracial dating.

  12. Not every 'mixed' relationship is like that.

    Some are genuine and fulfilling no matter the financial muscle of the foreigner.

    Let me also bring in another angle to this. Foreigners (sorry, but I don't like that word) are more expressive of their love (for the African man/woman) e.g. buying gifts, going out to dates, flowers, cards e.t.c., whereas we Africans are not used to that.

    Some people see this and say that the 'mzungu' is pampering the partner and he/she is just there for the money.

    Well, not all of them are like that.

    To me, if two people love and care for one another then, no matter what each person has or from where they come from, they can love and learn to live with each other...no string or rings attached!

    That's what works. Let us not focus on the incidentals, rather the heart. Judge people on their feelings not wallet.

  13. Hi Haute Haiku,

    These boys and gals only looking for financially stable partners are sometimes doing themselves a disservice. I don't believe money is a measure of one's happiness. x

    Hi Amelia and Pater Nostra,

    Infact only the two people should concern themselves with why they are in any relationship. Unfortunately we can't stop peoples speculation. x

  14. Dear Tamaku,

    I realize you´re probably in your car by now...speeding off to paradise (gained)...I just wanted to add a comment to my previous note about what people ¨think¨ (?) about age and color differences (particularly same sex) when one is the manority person (I´m white)...I live in a small village in Central America. This is not a luxe setting (although the landscape and surrounding are gorgeous here, quite clean, sanitary, running water everywhere and some outdoor Pilas, outdoor washing tubs, and most people make lovely gardens in their homes). The average income around here is most likely less than $150.00 monthly (mostly farm workers at coffee plantations and viveros and domestic workers who are paid the least of all). I am one of only four ¨Norteamericanos¨ who lives here. I notice that I´m well respected and I have always respected the fact that I´m a guest in a foreign country and small pueblo...I´ve lived abroad before, I believe the best policy always is to ¨become¨ part of the culture (not losing my identity, or trying to, but absorbing much of the rich texture of difference that surrounds me in my very culturally ¨mixed¨ life). I find it very strange to be amongst ¨Americanos¨ in the United States when I travel home...it´s as if I´m no longer ¨like¨those people who are my countrymen and women...very interesting to HAVE both worlds as part of who I am...that ofcourse would largely be attributed to the two partners I´ve had that are/were Latin Americanos. One was wealthy and from a ¨known family¨ (he was murdered a little over ten years ago) and one isn´t...I get to be part of a whole range of living circumstances...I find it good...until Bush, everyone loved MOST Americanos Norte or Sur...since Bush, most folks think U.S.A. Americans are a bit stupid, greedy and murderous...Bush stained our reputations more than being Gay every could (besides here most people have ¨double standards¨ about many things and secrets remain secrets, or else!).

    Blink, blink, blink.

    Have fun at the Lodge!

  15. Hi Leonardo,

    Not yet gone, we are still at home; we leave tomorrow. Your personal experience is invaluable to this discussion. Here in Kenya most mzungus (swahili for white person) living here are working for UN agencies, aid NGO's or as expats for large multinationals. Their lavish lifestyles, which are not dissimilar to those of wealthy Kenyans, are at times a subject of much envy and derision in a country where the majority struggle to make $300 a year! These inequalities compounded by a lack of social interaction is only adding fuel to suspicion. If anything we need more of this 'mixing'. Have a wonderful holiday. x


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